60 Percent of House Democrats Vote for Exit from Afghanistan War
Last night, House lawmakers passed a bill which would give the Pentagon the $33 billion in supplemental war funding they have requested to pay for the surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops that President Obama ordered to join the war in Afghanistan. Though the Senate passed this war funding in May, the additional domestic spending that the House attached to the Senate version mean that the bill will need to be considered again in the Senate in mid-July before it can be sent to the President. Three amendments were allowed to be put for a vote with increasing degrees of severity in restricting war funding, and while all failed, the spirited debate on the war in Afghanistan was unprecedented, and the final vote tally showed a deep erosion of support for the President’s war policy within his own party.
In a move that can only be characterized as defiant, Rep. David Obey (WI), chair of the House Appropriations Committee endorsed the bipartisan proposal by Reps. Jim McGovern (MA) and Walter Jones (NC) calling on the President to provide a flexible timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by next April and calling for a Congressional vote to consider refusing future war funding if the administration failed to keep its word of beginning troop withdrawal in July 2011. FCNL has been lobbying heavily for months in favor of the anticipated amendment based on the McGovern-Jones bill, H.R. 5015, but with the support of Obey, a high ranking and third most senior Representative, the measure gained in stature. In the debate, Obey remarked:
I think it is obvious that we are not going to be able to rebuild our own country and make the investments we need here at home so long as we’re continuing this mission in Afghanistan. And so I think this provides an orderly, rational, responsible, thoughtful way by which we can reach a conclusion to get out of that country rather than spending another 9 years before we finally face up to reality.
162 House members -153 Democrats and 9 Republicans- voted in favor of the Obey-McGovern-Jones Amendment, compared to 138 members voting on a similar amendment to the military authorization bill by Rep. McGovern last year. An incredible 60% of House Democrats effectively flouted their president who earlier on Thursday issued a statement threatening to veto any measure that would “undermine his ability as Commander in Chief to conduct military operations in Afghanistan.”
In addition to the exit strategy amendment, a more stringent amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee was offered, proposing to only allowing funding for force protection and towards the withdrawal of troops. This amendment astonishingly garnered 100 votes, almost a quarter of the House, compared to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (OH) resolution in March to end the war in Afghanistan as quickly as possible which received 65 votes.
FCNL Foreign Policy Legislative Secretary Jim Fine often remarks that even failing to pass a bill can be a success, and in this case, the results of these votes show without a doubt that we have succeeded in demonstrating through Congress that the U.S. public is not willing to condone an endless war in Afghanistan. President Obama cannot go forward with his present war policy in Afghanistan while 60% of Representatives from his party have expressed serious doubts in the Obey-McGovern-Jones amendment. Another great success is the mainstream media’s attention to the war in Afghanistan and coverage of these recent votes against the war funding. As election season heats up, it will be everyone’s responsibility to make sure that ending the war in Afghanistan remains a top issue.